Oysters are big business. That might not be immediately apparent on a visit to Hog Island Oyster Company in Northern California’s bucolic Tomales Bay, where the place still has a seafood shack sensibility. The farm was started more than 30 years ago by two marine biologists who borrowed $500 from parents and a boat from neighbors and began cultivating briny bivalves in five-acres of intertidal waters.
As a small seafood business and sustainable farm, Hog Island has weathered its share of hardships, including significant oyster seed shortages and the threat of species extinction, courtesy of environmental challenges.
It has stayed afloat, though. In fact, three decades on, Hog Island has quite the cult following around the country and it has earned respect as a leader in the shellfish industry. These days, founders John Finger and Terry Sawyer preside over a $12 million operation that employs almost 200, farms 160 acres, and harvests over 3.5 million oysters, clams, and mussels every year. Read more
In the summer of 1970, a group of friends followed an old stagecoach road into the woods of California’s Gold Country. They were hunting for mining relics and pioneer oddities hidden in the forest, but what they found was even more rare: antique fruit trees.
There, perched 5,000 feet in the Sierras, was a thriving fruit orchard, branches heavy with rare varieties of apples, plums, cherries, and pears. Without pruning or pesticides, the trees had been alive since the Gold Rush—a far cry from the commercial fruit trees of today, which last fewer than 35 years. Read more
The Umatilla tribes in northeastern Oregon promised to take care of the foods that promised to take care of them: water, fish, game, roots, and berries. Can they keep that promise in a warming world? Read more
Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser of Northern California’s Singing Frogs Farm grows fruit and vegetables completely without machinery, a system Paul refers to as “non-mechanized, no-till.” He said goodbye to his tractor and tiller seven years ago after he felt he was unnecessarily harming wildlife, saw too many machines break down, and watched his soil quality decrease. Now, his eight-acre farm has a robust community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and his soil is full of life. Read more
How much would you pay to convert manure to electricity? What if you could power your home and workplace, make fertilizer, keep organic waste out of the landfill, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and sell excess energy to the local grid?
To transform guilt into virtue, is $3.1 million too much? Read more
A well-coordinated attack is being waged on a proposed federal rule aimed at clarifying Clean Water Act protection for the nation’s water resources – the same environmentally and economically vital waterways on which, it bears mentioning, our food, water and energy systems are highly dependent. For more than a decade, lack of clarity has left many of our nation’s waters unprotected. According to Clean Water Action, this includes “20 million acres of wetlands, 60 percent of all streams, including headwater, intermittent, and ephemeral streams that supply public drinking water systems that serve 117 million Americans – 5,646 public water supply systems.”
Why are streams and wetlands so vital? In short, it’s their connection (or “connectivity”) to downstream waters. Read more
Hanna Ranch spans across thousands of acres of prairie just south of Colorado Springs, nestled between Fountain Creek and Interstate 25 as both wind their way south. Listen closely and you might hear a meadowlark whistle over the roar of the crowd at the nearby racetrack as the wind whips through the buffalo grass dotting the plains.
The ranch, like most of rural Colorado’s agriculture industry, lies at a crossroads between the man-made and the natural. Hanna Ranch, a documentary produced by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and which debuted earlier this year, chronicles one family’s struggle to preserve their namesake ranch under the strain of a rapidly expanding suburbia. Read more
California’s ongoing drought is expected to have a devastating impact on Central Valley agriculture this year, to the tune of $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs lost. Even at the start of the summer, farmers are already being forced to dip into their ‘savings accounts’ — groundwater reserves — to make up for reduced surface water deliveries.
Meanwhile, the California legislature is in the midst of a mad rush to get a passable multi-billion-dollar water bond on the November ballot.
It’s not like we haven’t been here before, or won’t be here again. California has a long history of drought, and climate change models suggest farmers should get used to dealing with water scarcity. Read more
Years ago, The Zimbabwean biologist and environmentalist, Allan Savory of the Savory Institute, believed that large roaming animals, such as elephants, were destroying Africa’s great plains, leading to desertification.
In the years that ensued, some 40,000 elephants were killed in hopes of saving the plains. But, much to Savory’s dismay, the culling of these animals didn’t make a significant difference. After years of additional research, he determined it was poor management–not overgrazing–that led to desertification. In fact, Savory explained, he found that by allowing livestock to graze and roam across the plains, the natural cycle of what he describes as “birth, growth, death and decay,” actually has the potential to restore the world’s grasslands. Read more
The U.S. maple syrup season ended around Easter this year, making it short and sweet. A long, cold winter in New England prohibited the right combination of freeze and thaw that maple trees need to let their sap flow until March; even when they did flow, they were off to a slow start. Read more